CINCINNATI — Browns coach Hue Jackson returned to his old stomping grounds Sunday, and his team continued to reach new lows with a 30-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Now 1-26 since the Browns hired him last year, Jackson tied John McKay for the worst start any NFL head coach has had with a team. McKay started 0-26 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-77, but he won his next two games.
Jackson, who spent seven seasons as an assistant under Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, will set a dubious record at 1-27 if the Browns lose to the Chargers on Sunday in his hometown of Los Angeles.
With the loss to the 5-6 Bengals, the Browns also became just the second team in NFL history to begin consecutive seasons 0-11. McKay’s Buccaneers also did it in 1976 and 1977.
The Browns are 4-44 dating to late in the 2014 season, the worst 48-game stretch in NFL history.
They haven’t won a road game since Oct. 11, 2015. They haven’t won on a Sunday since Dec. 13, 2015.
They have lost 21 of their past 27 meetings with the Bengals, including the last seven. They have gone 5-45 since they most recently defeated the Bengals on Nov. 6, 2014.
They were outscored by the Bengals 61-23 in their two AFC North matchups against them this season. The Browns were also routed 31-7 by the Bengals on Oct. 1 in Cleveland.
At least the historically bad Browns made this one interesting.
On fourth-and-goal, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer ran for a 3-yard touchdown on a draw to finish a 15-play, 89-yard drive and allow the Browns to trim their deficit to 23-16 with 6:57 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals responded, though. They seized a 30-16 lead with 2:57 left in the fourth quarter when rookie running back Joe Mixon ran for an 11-yard touchdown. The drive was extended when the officials called a controversial penalty on rookie safety Jabrill Peppers for contact to a defenseless receiver when he delivered a shot to wide receiver Josh Malone as he tried to secure a catch on third-and-5 from Cleveland’s 40.
The Browns then drove to the Bengals’ 42, where receiver Ricardo Louis dropped a pass for a would-be first down on fourth-and-4.
Kizer completed 18-of-31 passes for 268 yards without a touchdown or an interception, posting a passer rating of 86.5. He also ran nine times for 39 yards (4.3 average) and a touchdown. He took three sacks.
The Browns started and ended the first half with field-goal drives and were dominated in between on their way to trailing the Bengals 16-6 at halftime.
In an eventful second quarter, Kizer and punter Britton Colquitt left the game to be evaluated for possible concussions and returned.
The Browns took a 3-0 lead on the game’s opening possession when rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez made a 27-yard field goal with 9:17 left in the first quarter. The Browns settled for the kick at the end of an 11-play, 66-yard drive after facing first-and-goal at the 8. The Browns went backward from there with the Bengals tackling running back Isaiah Crowell (16 carries, 95 yards) for a 3-yard loss and rookie tight end David Njoku drawing an offensive pass interference penalty.
The Bengals countered right away to seize a 7-3 advantage with 5:08 left in the first quarter. Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun missed a chance to intercept a pass, and quarterback Andy Dalton later connected with receiver Tyler Body for an 8-yard touchdown at the end of a nine-play, 75-yard drive. Calhoun dropped another would-be interception in the fourth quarter, and Peppers and middle linebacker Joe Schobert missed other chances for picks in the first half.
The Browns fired back when Kizer completed a 44-yard pass to receiver Corey Coleman on a go route on third-and-8 at Cleveland’s 23. But receiver Bryce Treggs’ 15-yard taunting penalty pushed the Browns back three plays before Gonzalez missed a 43-yard field wide left with nine seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
The Bengals extended their lead to 10-3 with 9:14 left in the second quarter when Randy Bullock made a 31-yard field goal. The Bengals settled for the kick after rookie defensive end Myles Garrett sacked Dalton on third-and-7 at Cleveland’s 8.
Backup quarterback Cody Kessler entered the game with 9:09 left in the second quarter while Kizer was being evaluated for a concussion, and the Browns went three-and-out. Colquitt was evaluated for a possible concussion after taking a hit to the helmet during the ensuing punt return, a 55-yard touchdown by Adam Jones negated by Cethan Carter’s illegal block in the back.
The Bengals took control at the Browns’ 49. Cincinnati then took a 13-3 lead when Bullock capped a five-play, 18-yard drive by making a 49-yard field goal with 6:12 left in the second quarter.
Kizer re-entered the game with 6:12 left in the second quarter, and the Browns went three-and-out. Filling in for Colquitt, Gonzalez punted 16 yards.
The Bengals took over at the Browns’ 45, and Bullock made a 21-yard field goal to give them a 16-3 lead at the end of a six-play, 42-yard drive with 2:06 left in the second quarter.
Kizer then led the Browns on an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Colquitt returned just in time to hold for Gonzalez’s 21-yard field goal, and the successful attempt trimmed the Browns’ deficit to 16-6 with time expired in the first half.
The Bengals scored at the end of a 10-play, 78-yard march on the first possession of the second half to go ahead 23-6 with 10:21 left in the third quarter. Dalton connected with tight end Tyler Kroft for a 1-yard touchdown pass a play after cornerback Jason McCourty was called for pass interference on third-and-goal at the 5.
The next series, the Browns should have scored a touchdown, but Coleman dropped a 29-yard pass from Kizer in the end zone with 5:17 left in the third quarter. Two plays later, Gonzalez made a 39-yard field goal to trim the Bengals’ lead to 23-9 with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter.
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